The Barnes Foundation and Violette de Mazia
Jill Fredston and Avalanches


RE: The Barnes Foundation


In reference to your article, "Doing the Tarantella at the Barnes Foundation:" Violette De Mazia appears briefly in [the novel I am writing]. I have read magazine articles which stated she dressed in accordance to what she was teaching on any given day wearing flowered dresses when she was dealing with paintings of flowers etcetera.

My question concerns your reminiscence concerning Violette's French accent, her dress, her dancing, and the use of Beethoven's 5th. How much was truth and how much was fiction?

--- William Snyder
Oakland, CA.

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Hi, Bill:

"Doing the Tarantela" was written forty years after I studied at the Barnes Foundation. In addition, I have a flowery imagination. It is likely that I have dolled up the facts in the article. As you know, fantasy has a habit of sneaking in the back door when a "factual account" pretends to come in the front.

My vision of Violette de Mazia is static. Except for her red tinted hair (I may have just made this up) she seemed gaunt and monochromatic. If she changed her voluminous skirts to accomodate the flowers painted before us, I never noticed.

I don't think I am wrong about the tinted glasses, nor the various original paintings that she had in her house, nor my brief flirtation with the ups-and-downs of grand larceny. And the layout of the foundation and the paintings remain severely etched in my memory, the result of some fifty to seventy-five classes I took at the foundation.

Her accent did not strike me as particularly French, even though it is said she was born in Paris; it might have been Slavic, and she could have made herself up much as I have.

Her dance before the canvas, the scratchy 78 RPM version of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, her swirling dress: these remain true, since this rather violent Violette came in such sharp contrast to her cool --- no, let's say cold --- presentations both before and after.

You ask, "How much was truth and how much was fiction?" Surely, Bill, you certainly must know, in your own experience in the craft of novels, not to say readings of such as Javier Marías, Vladimir Nabokov, Marcel Proust and the good Kinch himself that this dichotomy is one that lies as much as in the realm of myth as "reality." I can attest to the slam-bang wonder of my epiphany; as well as Violette de Mazia's kindness to me; and the hand-pushed lawnmowers (that may or may not have muttered as Joyce believed.) Beyond that, I am rendered blind, deaf and dumb by the years.

Furthermore, as you suspect in the phrasing of your inquiry, I may have fabricated the whole ball of wax and, who knows? ... maybe even myself.

--- C. A. Amantea


Subject: Contact for Jill Fredston


I am a high school science teacher for South HS here in Anchorage. I am teaching a new class called Natural Science of Alaska. I would like to finish the class in Dec with a unit of glaciers and snow/avalanches.

I was hoping that I might be able to acquire copies of some power point slides or videos that I might be able to use to teach my students about avalanches and snow types. If you could get in touch with Jill or others I would greatly appreciate it.

--- Craig Scola

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Hi, Craig;

We assume that you are referring to Ms. Fredston's fascinating book from several years ago, Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches Please note that it was put out by Harcourt, so you might want to contact them at their offices in New York to see if they can help you find her.

We note too that she is on the faculty of the National Leadership Outdoor School. You might contact them at 800-710-NOLS to see if they could put you in touch with her.

Lolita Lark
Ed --- RALPH
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